SMOKIN’ GUNS: Provisional heritage listing for Martindale collection

Martindale Hall’s extensive Mortlock Weapons Collection was provisionally listed by the SA Heritage Council last week, making it only the third on the SA Heritage Register alongside the Burra Jinker and the Islington Weighbridge.

The listing of the Martindale collection, obviously as items much smaller than the jinker and bridge made it a first for the Heritage Council and is expected to be followed by more than 1000 other items up for State Heritage consideration from the historic Clare Valley landmark.

The heritage listing provides protection for the State Government-owned items, and under Section 14 (2) of the Heritage Places Act 1993, it means obligations apply to owners pursuant to Section 28 of the Heritage Act that objects cannot be moved, altered or sold without permission.

It is expected the Mortlock Weapons Collection will be confirmed on the South Australian Heritage Register at the December meeting of the SA Heritage Council, following a consultation period with the State Government.

SA Heritage Council chair Keith Conlon said the heritage listing of the weapons collection provided some security for its longevity and was the first step in determining its provenance.

“The provisional listing, and anticipated confirmation, of the Mortlock Weapons Collection on the South Australian Heritage Register is significant as it will protect and conserve the entire collection and its history into the future,” he said.

“This collection is one of many originally belonging to the Mortlock family – a prominent and noteworthy South Australian pastoral family.

“We hope in future to do some work to establish the provenance of the items, including those that may be linked to First Nation peoples.

“This is an important step in the journey of reconciliation and also an opportunity to tell the full story of these items and give the original owners an opportunity to be reconnected with part of their culture.”

Built in 1879/80, and home to the Bowman and Mortlock families, Martindale Hall was State heritage listed in 1980.

The property contains more than 1000 potentially historically-significant items including furniture, furnishings and specialised collections.

With so many items of significance, it is anticipated they will be grouped into a further 13 collections and presented to the SA Heritage Council over a series of meetings for consideration for listing as State Heritage Objects.

The Mortlock Weapons Collection includes weapons originating from many different countries and continents including Australian First Nations, Pacific Island Nations, Japan, India, South East Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The collection includes 123 weapons, although some have multiple components, typically a blade and scabbard and includes arrows, spears, boomerangs, woomeras, clubs, shields, knives, daggers, swords, firearms (all now unfirable) and a nineteenth century suit of Japanese Samurai armour.

The Mortlock Weapons Collection was largely acquired by William Tennant Mortlock during his travels in Australia and overseas, and then added to by his son John.

From at least the earliest years of the twentieth century it has been displayed by the Mortlocks on the walls of the room that came to be known as the Smoking Room.

Martindale Hall caretaker Mick Morris said he hoped the heritage listing of the items would protect them for generations to come.

“I’m surprised they weren’t already heritage listed to be honest, but I think it’s a good thing and it means they cannot be sold or moved without permission,” he said.